An Open Letter to New and Continuing CW Students

Tue, 09/08/2015

For me, the only day rivaling the excitement of Commencement is New Student Orientation. They are bookends indicating a new beginning and going forward into the relative unknown.

This is an open letter to our new and continuing students. When I was a kid, a friend of my Dad's, Howard, decided to expand my reading and appreciation of poetry.  He gave me a book called Reflections On A Gift Of Watermelon Pickle...and Other Modern Verse. I was in third grade. We just happened to have to memorize poems that year in school, and I still remember one I recited in front of my classmates, from the watermelon pickle book, called Hold Fast To Dreams.

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly
Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow
    ---Langston Hughes

The point, beyond holding onto your dreams, is that I learned that poem at the age of 8 as an assignment in school.  I still remember it.

The things that you learn become yours forever. Your knowledge becomes your property, and can shape your destiny.  Holy fast to your dreams.

The the rest of the story?  I did keep writing and learning.  I still love a good turn of phrase and a wonderful poem or short story or book.  I read everything and am still learning.  When I recently came across the book from Howard, I remembered the poem without opening to the page.  Just looking at the worn, bent cover was enough.

I could have done the assignment of memorization with a little less vigor, but I decided to really enjoy the chance to do something new.  I was very fearful of getting up in front of my fellow students, so I also felt that memorizing the poem with give me something to cling to in my fear and help me feel better and more prepared.  It did.  I still do this today.  I prepare and it helps me feel better.  The side benefit is I remember more, important things stay with me.  I guess it is called learning!

If you can embrace your learning, the benefits are myriad!

About Langston Hughes:  from wikipedia:  James Mercer Langston Hughes (February 1, 1902 – May 22, 1967) was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist from Joplin, Missouri.

He was one of the earliest innovators of the then-new literary art form called jazz poetry. Hughes is best known as a leader of the Harlem Renaissance.
In his memory, his residence at 20 East 127th Street in Harlem has been given landmark status by the New York City Preservation Commission, and East 127th Street has been renamed “Langston Hughes Place.”  In addition to leaving us a large body of poetic work, Hughes wrote eleven plays and countless works of prose, including the well-known “Simple” books: Simple Speaks His Mind, (Simon & Schuster, 1950); Simple Stakes a Claim,(Rinehart, 1957); Simple Takes a Wife, (Simon & Schuster, 1953); and Simple’s Uncle Sam (Hill and Wang, 1965). He edited the anthologies The Poetry of the Negro and The Book of Negro Folklore, wrote an acclaimed autobiography,The Big Sea (Knopf, 1940), and cowrote the play Mule Bone (HarperCollins, 1991) with Zora Neale Hurston.
Posted by: 
Mary Beth Del Balzo, CW President